This Year’s (Virtual) Alumni Luncheon, Featuring John Kenney ’81

On February 11, the Alumni Office hosted a virtual gathering in place of our annual Spring Luncheon, which featured alumnus John Kenney ’81—critically acclaimed novelist and bestselling author (Truth in Advertising, Talk to Me) and poet (Love Poems for Married People, Love Poems for People with Children, Love Poems for Anxious People, Love Poems for the Office). Mr. Kenney has contributed to The New Yorker since 1999.

Alumni Council President Mike McElaney ’98 provided the opening remarks and emphasized the ways in which the RL alumni network can offer both professional opportunities and friendships. He noted that even in the midst of the pandemic, alumni have found ways to come together through Zoom class reunions, online industry-specific networking groups, and virtual events like the one that replaced Luncheon itself.

In a conversation moderated by Headmaster Kerry Brennan, Mr. Kenney discussed his professional journey as a writer and shared his creative, poignant, and funny explorations of love and life. His presentation was an appropriate prelude to Valentine’s Day, and his reflections on relationships and love left attendees of all ages reeling with laughter. Throughout the conversation, the grid of faces on Zoom was filled with grins.

More than fifty alumni from across the country attended the event, and attendees represented classes from 1958 through 2020, with an especially sizable cohort from the Class of 1981. All current seniors, the Class of 2021, were also present, keeping with a longstanding tradition, whereby Luncheon serves as the inaugural alumni event for seniors as they look toward graduating and embarking on a new relationship with Alma Mater.

In addition to a large faculty and staff presence, several friends of the school and trustees also joined the meeting. Mr. Kenney spoke of the lessons he learned at Roxbury Latin—to work hard, to be persistent, and to accept shortcomings as learning opportunities. Mr. Kenney singled out two of his RL teachers as particular mentors, Mr. Joseph Kerner (who taught at RL from 1976 until his retirement in 2012), and Mr. Maurice Randall (who is presently in his 45th year teaching at Roxbury Latin and was at the event).

Mr. Kenney delighted the audience with readings of several poems (leaving them in tears, as well some seniors flush with embarrassment!). Mr. Kenney then fielded questions from the audience. He was delighted to engage with the seniors and shared some of his favorite authors and texts. He also reflected on some of the methods and practices that might make someone a better writer.

One of the seniors followed up with Mr. Kenney after the call to orchestrate an Independent Senior Project for the spring. Mr. Kenney eagerly accepted the invitation to serve as a mentor.

To learn more about Mr. Kenney’s writing, please visit his website.